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Myanmar Intends to Build 'Research' Atomic Reactors: Minister

Honor guards attend a military ceremony in Yangon last week. The Burmese government this week announced it intends to construct atomic reactors to support civilian scientific research. Honor guards attend a military ceremony in Yangon last week. The Burmese government this week announced it intends to construct atomic reactors to support civilian scientific research. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

Myanmar announced on Monday that it intends to build an atomic reactor to support civilian scientific research, The Nation reported.

"We need a nuclear reactor for research use as it is very useful in various fields, such as health, agriculture and livestock breeding," Burmese Science and Technology Union Minister Ko Ko Oo said in remarks to lawmakers.

The reactor would not be built until Myanmar first acquires the necessary skills to safely operate it, according to the government figure.

"To develop nuclear technology, infrastructure is also necessary to prevent radiation and proliferation of nuclear weapons," Ko Ko Oo said. "We are trying to develop human resources to acquire nuclear technology."

Myanmar is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop a nuclear program, he said.

The Southeast Asian country previously came under suspicion by some independent experts and foreign governments that it was illicitly collaborating with North Korea to create the rudiments of a nuclear arms program. Since coming to power in 2011, the nominally civilian-run government in Naypyidaw has worked to dispel those concerns. In 2013, Myanmar acceded to the U.N. nuclear watchdog's Additional Protocol, which permits more intrusive and snap IAEA inspections of declared and suspected atomic facilities.

Ko Ko Oo said a national law would have to be passed before the construction of nuclear reactors would be permitted.

A nascent 2007 agreement with Russia to purchase two atomic energy reactors that would be powered by low-enriched uranium fell apart when the then-ruling Burmese military junta could not raise the funds to pay for the technology. The Burmese government later said in 2011 that it had no plans to try pursuing another atomic energy program, out of a desire to avoid ruffling international feathers.

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Myanmar

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